Explaining ADHD to 2e Kids: Race Cars and Bicycles

Explaining ADHD to 2e kids

As the parent of a 2e student who struggles with both ADHD and processing speed issues, I have been challenged with how to talk to my son about his gifts and his challenges. When he was younger, I simplified the conversations greatly –saying things like, “You are really great at math! And… you also have trouble focusing sometimes, and that can make school hard for you.” As he’s gotten older, those conversations just weren’t cutting it.

Unfortunately, he sometimes experiences many more challenges in school than he does successes, of which he is acutely aware. As a bright kid, this disconnect between his abilities and his output/achievement can trigger a great deal of confusion and frustration. I feel certain that it has also impacted his overall confidence and sense of self-efficacy.

Recently, I ran across a great article in ADDitude magazine that provided some much needed help on this issue. Dr. Edward Hallowell talked about how he uses the analogy of a “Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes” to explain ADHD to children. This analogy seems particularly relevant to 2e children who indeed do have “Ferrari brains” but often struggle with getting themselves on the road to success. I tried this analogy out with my son and it made things so much more relatable for him. I also have since incorporated this approach into my practice as a psychologist, where I provide comprehensive educational evaluations and often need to give feedback to parents and their children regarding twice exceptionality and learning challenges, such as ADHD and learning disabilities.

My advice to other parents is to avoid “sugar coating” your child’s challenges. We often want to protect our children from harm and disappointment, which is understandable. However, I firmly believe that these “negative” experiences are a natural part of life that provide incredible opportunities for growth. For 2e individuals, these challenges will be ongoing throughout their life. As our children get older, they need to be able to advocate for themselves – both in school and in the world in general. The more they know about themselves and their own needs, the better they can do this.


Terri Lucero, Ph.D.

For Further Reading:

Here’s a link to the original article on the ADDitude website: